Emma Spaulding Bryant Letters

Correspondence by Emma Spaulding Bryant during the summer of 1873 to her husband John Emory Bryant

About the Digital Collection

Browse this collection: https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/scriptorium/bryant/

Emma Spaulding Bryant wrote these ten letters to her husband, John Emory Bryant, in the summer of 1873. They recount Emma's activities during that summer when she and her daughter, Alice, were visiting relatives in Illinois and Ohio while her husband tended to his political affairs in Georgia.

In particular, the letters describe Emma's visits to a doctor in Cleveland for "uterine difficulties" that had been ailing her for some time. Although we do not have her husband's letters to her from this period, it appears that he accused her of adultery with the doctor and berated her for not being obedient to him. Many of Emma's letters from this period have markings in red pencil, presumably made by John to highlight the sections of her letters that he found suspicious. Emma's responses to John's accusations are indignant, and she rebuts each of his points eloquently and emphatically.

Because these letters are unusually frank for this time period, they reveal much about the relationships between husbands and wives in this era, and shed light on medical practices that were often kept private. Emma Spaulding Bryant's letters are found in the John Emory Bryant Papers.

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Source Collection

This digital collection comprises selected materials from the following archival collection at David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library:

John Emory Bryant papers 1851-1955 and undated

Collection #RL.00167 | 11 Linear Feet

Born in Union, Maine, John Emory Bryant (1836-1900) was an abolitionist, teacher, Union officer with the 8th Maine Volunteers, agent of the Freedmen's Bureau, newspaper editor and publisher, lawyer, and Republican politician in Georgia. The collection includes letters, journals, scrapbooks, writings, speeches, and printed materials related to the lives of John Emory Bryant (JEB), his wife Emma Spaulding Bryant, their daughter Emma Alice Zeller and her husband Julius Zeller and their descendants, and William Anderson Pledger who was a Republican contemporary of JEB. The bulk of the collection falls into four main divisions: the early years in Maine (1851-1860), during the American-Civil War (1861-1865), during Reconstruction in Georgia, and the later years in New York (1888-1900). Some of the materials are not original and are copies or typescripts. Of note are materials regarding Georgian Republican politics; conditions for Radical Republicans and African-Americans during Reconstruction, including correspondence with Henry McNeal Turner; historical views about the differences between the North and the South; Ku Klux Klan activity in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama; and a particularly passionate exchange between Emma Spaulding Bryant and her husband regarding her visits to a doctor about "uterine difficulties" (these 10 letters from Emma Bryant have been digitized and are available online).

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